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    Confidence is Everything: A Soldier’s Rise to the Top

    USACAPOC(A) Best Warrior

    Photo By Sgt. Kimber Huang | Maj. Gen. Daniel R. Ammerman, commanding general of USACAPOC(A), congratulates Staff...... read more read more



    Story by Staff Sgt. Sharilyn Wells 

    U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne)

    By Staff Sgt. Sharilyn Wells, USACAPOC(A) PAO

    JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. — “I am competing for the right to be called the best noncommissioned officer of the year,” Staff Sgt. Keeton Tucker, 320th Tactical Psychological Operations Company, confidently said after completing a troop leading test for the U.S. Army Civil Affairs & Psychological Operations Command (Airborne) Best Warrior Competition located here.

    Whether he was foreshadowing his soon-to-be future or if it was just his confidence, on April 15, 2015, Tucker was named the USACAPOC(A) NCO of the Year. The prior infantry Soldier was shocked when his name was called at the awards ceremony held at the Washington Crossing Inn, in Washington Crossing, Pennsylvania.

    “I am blown away. This is easily the most prestigious thing I’ve ever been a part of in my nine years of Army service,” Tucker said humbly.

    Tucker served on active-duty for seven-and-half years. He made the switch to the U.S. Army Reserve a year and a half ago, becoming a psychological operations specialist. He is originally from southeast Texas but now resides in Corvallis, Oregon, and attends battle assembly in Portland.

    After being selected by his company to compete, and winning the 12th Psychological Operations Battalion competition, Tucker had around six months to prepare for the USACAPOC(A) competition.

    “I did a lot of studying and using flash cards. It’s a struggle, balancing it between school and civilian job — full time on both. I did a lot of piggyback training with a National Guard unit with things like land navigation, a lot of shooting on my own with my own (weapons) at civilian ranges.”

    The hardest part preparing for the competition for Tucker was balancing his other responsibilities. A full-time history major at Oregon State University and a full-time bar tender, Tucker had to squeeze in his Army studying whenever he could.

    “Because this is the Reserves, it’s about fitting things into your schedule. The owner of the bar I work at full time, a retired Lieutenant Colonel, Chris Erick, really supported me on this,” explained Tucker. “Every single time I had to step away to do something Army related, he was and still is immediately behind me supporting me. It really helps having a boss that is that supportive.”

    Continuing to the next level, the U.S. Army Reserve Command Best Warrior Competition in May held at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Tucker is as confident as ever.
    “Mentally prepared, I’m there. I am absolutely ready,” said Tucker. “Mentally I could walk into this tomorrow, but there are a few things I need to improve upon as far as what the events will be. I need to always be working on my PT (physical training). Regardless if it’s the Army Physical Fitness Test, ruck marching or just general conditioning, you can always use more PT. Also, need to study more … the oral board is usually the biggest way to set yourself apart from your peers. As far as soldiering skills for other events, I’m squared.”

    Out of all the events the competitors were testing on, Tucker was most looking forward to the oral board … something that most competitors fear.

    “It’s a chance to get your face seen by the USACAPOC(A) Command Sergeant Major and it’s really driven by him,” explained Tucker. “I interact really well with senior leadership. I think that’s one of my finest points, my ability to interact and not give into fear or lack of confidence.”
    The USACAPOC(A) competition for Tucker was grueling but not unexpected as he had a secret weapon — his sponsor, Staff Sgt. Brandon Lockhart, who was the runner-up USACAPOC(A) NCO of the year 2014.

    “I honestly feel that Staff Sgt. Lockhart was absolutely paramount to my success in the competition. Anything I needed or wanted during the events, he was there for me,” said Tucker. “He could have been easily sleeping while I was doing the events, but he stayed up and provided the support and motivation for me to keep going on.”

    “The competition was pretty much what I expected coming into it, other than I didn’t exactly expect winning,” smiled Tucker. “Once you get here and start going through the events, you really don’t know who you’re up against or who will come out on top. It’s anyone’s game when you walk into it, you can kind of see how it’s going in the middle, but you don’t know how it’s going to turn out until the end.”

    Along with the support of his unit and sponsor, Tucker spoke of the relationship between the competitors.

    “Honestly we are competing against each other, but there is no dirty-man syndrome of ‘I want to make this guy do worse,’” explained Tucker. “Part of the idea is that we’re all going out there to do our best and we don’t see how we compare to the others until the final day. So, you just go out there and do the best you can. You don’t care how they did, you just do the best you can.

    I’ve met a couple of cool people here that were in the same MOS (military occupation specialty) as I was when I was active-duty and it’s really a great time.”

    Giving advice for future competitors, Tucker reiterated the importance of preparing for a monumental event such as the Best Warrior competition.

    “Prepare. This isn’t the average warrior competition; this is the best warrior competition. There’s a huge difference,” Tucker said firmly. “You shouldn’t just come in here with your basic soldiering skills, at the very least, if you’re a junior enlisted Soldier you need to be prepared to step into the shoes of a non-commissioned officer. If you’re an NCO, you better be prepared to step into the shoes of the next level above you. And above anything, you just need to try harder. If there is anything at all you start slipping on, pick yourself up and drive on. That’s what it’s really about — driving on and being prepared.”



    Date Taken: 04.20.2015
    Date Posted: 04.20.2015 11:05
    Story ID: 160536
    Hometown: CORVALLIS, OR, US
    Hometown: DAL-NOR, TX, US

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